It’s a long-held belief that consuming too much saturated fat leads to clogged arteries and an increased risk of heart disease, heart attack and stroke. Now, an international team of researchers have published an editorial in the British Journal of Sports Medicine with the hope of dispelling this myth.
The researchers cited a systematic review and meta-analysis of observation studies that found no link between saturated fat consumption, coronary heart disease, and death. The authors believe that diagnosis and treatment of the disease requires a paradigm shift to reflect the idea that the condition is caused by chronic inflammation.
“It is time to shift the public health message in the prevention and treatment of coronary artery disease away from measuring serum lipids and reducing dietary saturated fat,” said the study authors. “Coronary artery disease is a chronic inflammatory disease and it can be reduced effectively by walking 22 min a day and eating real food.”
Disease management for heart disease has largely focused on unclogging arteries, however this approach has not been backed up by clinical trials. The studies found that when cardiac stents were surgically implanted to widen the obstructed arteries, the risk of cardiac events and death was not reduced.
“Decades of emphasis on the primacy of lowering plasma cholesterol, as if this was an end in itself and driving a market of ‘proven to lower cholesterol’ and ‘low fat’ foods and medications, has been misguided,” said the study authors. “Selective reporting may partly explain this misconception.”
Coronary artery disease is the leading cause of death for people in the US. According to the researchers, a Mediterranean-style diet rich in healthy fats may help reduce patients’ risk of experiencing a cardiovascular event by up to 30 percent.
Physical activity can improve outcomes in patients with coronary heart disease, with brisk walking having the potential to be more effective than running. In addition, chronic stress may be ones of the most overlooked risk factors for coronary heart disease, which could decrease a patient’s life expectancy by up to 20 years.
“Combining a complete lifestyle approach of a healthful diet, regular movement, and stress reduction will improve quality of life, reduce cardiovascular, and all-cause mortality,” said the study authors. “There is no business model or market to help spread this simple yet powerful intervention.”